Loneliness. We all suffer from it sometimes. During this age of COVID-19, some people are encountering loneliness more than ever before as social distancing seems to push us all farther and farther apart. Here are six Bible passages to review when loneliness tries to overtake you.
#1 Luke 17:20-21 “One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘When will the Kingdom of God come?’ Jesus replied, ‘The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.'”
What beautiful words. Read them again: “The Kingdom of God is already among you.” In context, Jesus is referring to Himself. From a broader perspective, believers carry the Holy Spirit within us (1 John 4:13) and, thus, we represent both the Temple and the Kingdom of God. However, God is not solely within us. . . .
#2 Jeremiah 23:24 “‘Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ says the LORD.”
God is everywhere at all times. Whether you believe or not, you are literally surrounded by God.
#3 1 John 4:16 “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
Who is God? God is Love, so you are surrounded by love.
#4 Psalm 147:3-5 “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!”
Who is God? God is the Healer. God is the Creator of all things, including the stars. The stars are for everyone. He put them there for all to see, including you.
Stop. Breathe. Feel Him. He is with you.
God is Holy. Yet, we are full of sin. How, then, can He be with us?
#5 Hebrews 10:10 “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”
Yes, the Kingdom of God is already among us. . . .
#6 Matthew 25:37-40, 44-45 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'”
No, you are not alone. Be the person that helps, not the one who looks the other way.
One of the things I noticed when I first moved into my apartment last year was the weirdness of the floors. In both the kitchen and the dining area, the faux wood floors seemed to retain food crumbs and other spillages on a massive scale compared to places I used to live. Even after I put a little area rug in place, the problem persisted. Had I really become such a slob overnight?
I wondered about that and thought back on my old life. I sweep and vacuum far more now than I ever did at my old house. Why, then, did the crumbs seem so rapidly to accumulate? My former spouse cleaned the floors even less often than me, so it certainly wasn’t due to her previous efforts, either.
What was so different about my apartment? It took me over a year to solve the mystery. When the answer finally dawned on me, I must admit, it made me sad.
I don’t have a dog anymore.
For almost my entire life, I have lived with a dog. Food crumbs were never an issue because by the time they traveled from my plate to the floor, there was a scampering of paws and, SLURP, gone! One of my speedier dogs would often arrive before the crumbs even made it to the floor. She was lightning fast and her food-drop radar was laser-perfect. Of course, she tended to stay in the vicinity anytime there was even the possibility I might touch food.
So, no, I did not become a slob overnight. Apparently, I have been one all along, spoiled over the years by my dogs. Some dogs are more special than others, really touching your heart, and my two most recent dogs certainly fit that category. One passed away in 2013 and the other I gave up last year in my divorce. I don’t want to give energy to the games my former spouse played by rehashing them, but she did things to ensure I didn’t get to say goodbye to my little pal. Fortunately, JC saw that coming, and I said goodbye to my dog in advance just in case. Thank God. I also wrote her a goodbye letter at some point, though I don’t remember the exact timing of that. That might have been after I had already moved. Not to mail, of course, but just to express what I was feeling inside.
When I realized why the crumbs were there, the sense of loss when it came to my dog came flooding back. This dog had been a constant companion to me and helped me survive what became an increasingly negative environment in my old house. She and her predecessor were no doubt spiritual warriors at times. They certainly helped me in innumerable ways.
I wondered if I should adopt a dog. I would basically have to add her or him to the lease and pay additional rent. Not to mention all of the other expenses that come along with being a responsible pet guardian. The financial aspect is only a small part of the consideration, though. While it would be tight, I could probably finagle it.
Another aspect is I have come to like the freedom of knowing I can drop whatever I am doing, go anywhere I want, and stay as long as I want. Now, in this age of COVID-19, I have rarely taken advantage of it, but it is a nice option to have. Another thing is not having to venture outside 7 or 8 times a day for little walks. I don’t know, maybe that is just laziness, or maybe I am becoming set in my ways after living by myself for a relatively short while.
I think the largest consideration, though, is that I do not know where my life is going to take me after the next two to three years. I believe that adopting an animal is a true commitment. I would consider her or him a family member. Though I know who will be with me on the journey, I don’t yet fully know what our lives will look like, where God will lead us, and whether that new destination could accommodate a dog. I have not prayed deeply on this, but to the extent that I have, I don’t think this is the time for me to adopt a dog. In fact, that time may never come again.
In many ways, despite knowing the timing is wrong, I wish I could adopt a dog now. When my sister’s little dogs come running up and “attack” me, slobbering kisses all over my face, I realize how much I miss being around dogs. When I first moved in to the apartment complex, I would approach some of my neighbors’ dogs to pet them, but, of course, now, social distancing keeps us all apart.
I’m not really going anywhere with this post, other than to say, give all of your pets a hug. You never know where life will take you. Enjoy them, because I do feel they are true gifts from God. Remember to pray for them, too, because they may be using up their energy defending you in ways you can’t even imagine.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.” Psalm 50:10-11
Before I begin today’s post, I want to point you to Wounded Butterflies. My collaborator, JC, is in progress over there on a brave series of posts, “Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew,” chronicling her story as an abuse survivor. Check the first three posts out at the following links: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.
I originally had a different topic in mind today, but Jesus has led me to write this one instead. It has been on my heart for some time, and today is the day.
To serve as the backbone of this post, I’m going to use a letter I wrote to a pastor back in June. However, I am going to both condense and expand it to better serve my purposes here. While I generally have tried to keep Beloved Walks free of politics, we are living in unusual times, and I feel burdened to speak. If not now, when?
Yes, I am compelled as a Christian to write this today, but I claim to speak for no one else other than myself.
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1
Here in the United States, we are a country full of pain. In many ways, we are a country founded on pain. Wonderful ideals masked flaws right from the start because of sin’s infiltration. Harsh realities marred powerful words, like “All men are created equal,” in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution went on to codify the disenfranchisement of entire groups of people. Yes, this document, touted as a beacon of democracy, is blemished in its very first article! The issue should have been resolved at the beginning, but instead, the founding fathers kicked it forward to a future generation.
The United States fought an entire war against itself decades later to free slaves, and, ostensibly, it did free them. Yet, African Americans still did not receive that promised equality. Oppression and disenfranchisement continued, but under other guises.
The losing side of the Civil War was later even able to erect statues of the traitors who chose the wrong side of morality. Why did losing generals in a failed secession get statues? “History” was the oft-repeated answer. No, those statues were meant to intimidate, plain and simple. They symbolize everything that is wrong with race relations in America. State and local governments have been slow to act to remove them, so the people have ultimately been compelled to do so on their own.
To be clear, I am definitely in favor of acknowledging and learning from history. What I strongly object to is the notion that this should be accomplished through maintaining statues of traitors portrayed falsely as heroes. No. Tear them down.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverb 31:8-9
A century after the Civil War, Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many other true heroes marched and shed their blood for civil rights, resulting in many advances. Because of their efforts, for example, I was blessed to have African American classmates and teachers – including my favorite teacher ever, who changed my life. As a white student, these gifts would have been impossible for me to receive before that movement. What a loss that would have been.
Yet, even after these civil rights victories, oppression and disenfranchisement continued, often in more subtle ways.
“‘Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” Joel 2:13
I am ashamed to admit, I was one of those naive enough to believe that this country’s racist history was finally behind us when the people elected President Barack Obama in 2008. Yet, he had barely taken the oath of office before I learned that racism was sadly alive. I remember the sinking feeling as I received multiple email forwards of supposed “humor” in the early days of his Presidency that was nothing more than racism.
Today, seemingly bereft of any leadership, this country is spiraling out of control at almost every level. Those we, the people, entrust with power are abusing that power to the point of murdering citizens. Only the prevalence of video cameras, thanks to smart phones, is finally making the rest of us see what some already knew far too well all along: There is still much work to do in the United States before we can truly be the “land of the free.”
Yes, I know many police officers are noble and put their lives on the line daily for just purposes. However, silence in the name of “brotherhood” only condones and emboldens those officers undeserving of our trust and the uniforms they wear.
White evangelicals elected a blatantly racist, sexist, choose just about any horrible adjective, President in 2016, and that support appears sadly to continue. The conservative political machine has become expert at manipulating that group through the use of hot button, dog whistle talking points. Much like the noble police officers, I am aware there are noble conservatives. However, silence in the era of Donald Trump – no matter if he supposedly identifies as your party or even your faith – only condones and emboldens a man undeserving of our trust and the office he holds. It really is the same as the officers who look the other way.
We are living in a time of change, yet this is barely reflected on the national ballot. It is one old, white man versus another old, white man for the Presidency. When it comes to racism and sexism, Joseph Biden has his own problems and only appears acceptable if contrasted to the mass chaos of an ignorant, power-hungry narcissist like Trump.
Should that really be our bar? Where are the real leaders?
No one is perfect, but surely we, as a nation, can do better than a choice between “Bad” and “Worse”? I used to think the United States was the greatest nation on Earth, but it’s hard to believe that anymore.
I, for one, am sad that for the second Presidential election in a row, I will be voting against someone, rather than for someone.
I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be an African American in this country. I don’t know what it’s like to have discrimination and hatred always lurking, always waiting to strike, always preparing to destroy. I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid for my life at a minor traffic stop or when jogging after dark. The small glimpses I have seen of these cruelties have been sickening, but I know I have experienced nothing compared to the reality.
What I do know is that black lives matter. What I do know is that white supremacy must end. What I do know is that police departments must make significant changes at a foundational level. What I do know is that we must seize this opportunity to correct the inherent flaws in American society.
What I do know, above anything else, is that we are all God’s children, created in His image.
Racism is not only a sin, but it is an attack against God Himself.
Father in Heaven,
May our hearts be torn. May our hearts be broken for what breaks Your heart.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.
“Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” 1 John 2:10-11
God provides such blessings, if you will only meet Him. I fail at this so often. I know there are so many gifts I miss out on because I get distracted by other activities.
I still struggle at work. I realize, ultimately, we all work for God – but I have a hard time reconciling what I do as really being His work. I do acknowledge it as God’s temporary plan, as He is providing until I make it to the next step on His path for me. Though I understand I have spiritual assignments there beyond my job-related tasks, work can sometimes feel like such a distraction.
Work was extremely busy this week. Hectic. I was working extra hours, sleeping little in order to sign in and start as early as 1:30 AM. Some of this is because we are in our busy season, and some of it is because I was not working very efficiently in the weeks leading up to these deadlines. So, I had to pay for being distracted away from work on previous weeks by allowing work to be my main distraction this week.
Finding balance has lately been difficult for me. My quiet time with the Lord suffered this week. I still spent time with Him each morning, but it was less than I would have wanted. I also did not get back to exercising, as I had planned to do. It feels like I can’t get everything back in balance again. I can get one part of my life going at a time, but not all of it.
On the plus side, I am writing again, which fills me. The challenge is that on a week like this, I want to be writing instead of working.
This is a mess of a post. Perhaps I’ll clean it up in editing. Or maybe not. This blog, after all, has always been about raw truth.
I also worry about how this new world the virus has forced upon all of us is affecting me. I am an introvert, but I had become stronger about dealing with all the rest of you humans over the last couple of years. I feel some of that slipping away, as I spend more and more time to myself.
And, to be clear, I love having time to myself. I love working remotely instead of in an office. But as I step my toe back out there in the world, it begins to feel scary all over again. Part of me never wants to go back to the old normal. So, I have to be careful not to let that kind of fear start to overwhelm me again as it once did.
For I have Jesus now, and no amount of social distancing will ever force Him away from me. He is always there, it is only that I need to stop and listen for Him. I need to stop and meet Him. I can’t ignore work or other responsibilities, but I must focus first on Him. He is the priority, for without Him, all of this is meaningless.
“Meaningless” — my above words remind me of Ecclesiastes. I believe “meaningless” must be used at least two dozen times in that book! That is one I struggle with, as it seems like such a downer. I see now, though, (and I mean, literally, right now), that it essentially points to Jesus. Everything really is meaningless without Him.
“I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:13-14
“Chasing the wind” is a great turn-of-phrase. I definitely feel like I am doing that sometimes. Perhaps you do as well. At those times, we must remember to re-center ourselves and focus on Jesus.
Let us pray.
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for peace. Thank You for love.
Please forgive us our sins, including those we do not see.
When we are pulled too many directions, please help us bring balance back into our lives. Help us to see what really matters, spreading your Word and eternal energy to our sisters and brothers here on Earth.
Help us to focus, Lord, on Your Son. Let us feel Him guiding us along His paths for us. Let Him shine His light through us.
Lord, pour us out and fill us up with You. Give us Your vision, Your strength, and Your wisdom.
Thank You, God.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.
“The more words you speak, the less they mean. So what good are they? In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?” Ecclesiastes 6:11-12
This verse speaks to me today as well, for it puts me in the mindset of, where is this post really going? The more I write, the less sense it makes. What is the purpose?
Anytime I write here, I do have a purpose, though. It may not always be clear, and I may not always achieve it, but I always have that purpose in mind.
Is my life meaningless, as the author of Ecclesiastes suggests above? No, I can’t agree with that. I have Jesus. I have true love. I know joy. I want others to experience those blessings, too. I love the way Paul says it:
“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:23-24
I do agree with Ecclesiastes, though, in that our lives have few days. How many do we waste? We can’t have them back once they’re gone. Life here on Earth is fleeting.
I believe in eternal life. I believe when we die, it is only the beginning. Eternity awaits. For those of us who know Jesus, it is an eternity in Heaven, the Perfect Place.
However, there is something else I think about of late. Something I have been pondering during this strange time of COVID-19, when there has been more time to think (outside of this particular week, anyway).
While it is true that the blessing of eternity awaits, that is, obviously, a very different life than the ones we live now here on Earth. Our time on Earth is not even a blink compared to the eternity ahead of us.
That should make this time, this life all the more valuable to us.
This life, the one we have now, on this troubled, messed up planet that we know and love so well, this life is special because it is the only time we are here in this form.